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陈慰中:on Earth as in Heaven
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(WORLD PUBLIC FORUM “DIALOGUE OF CIVILIZATIONS” THE 6TH GENERAL MEETING,Rhodes, Greece, October 9-13,2008)

 

 

on Earth as in Heaven

by Dr. W. C. Tan

 

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. (Matthew 5:23)

 

The emphasis is that Jesus preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom is inseparable from healing all manner of sickness and disease, which is the universal health care.

 

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 8:19-21)

 

Many questions have been asked.  For example, what is the meaning and purpose of life?  To such a question, Jesus stated, “The meaning of life is to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. And he who does the will of the Heavenly Father shall enter.”  We may dare say that the meaning and purpose of life is to “do the will of the Father”.  That is why Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 7:33)

 

We read that Jesus began his ministry in Galilee.  He started by preaching the gospel of the kingdom of Heaven.  In the gospel according to St. Matthew, Jesus used the phrase the “kingdom of heaven” but in the other three gospels, the “kingdom of God” is used.  The words “God” and “heaven” have been used interchangeably.  Some people take the word “heaven” to mean nature and the word “God” to mean a personal God.  Jesus used the words God and heaven interchangeably because the personal god is in control of nature.  For example, we are told to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and here the phrase kingdom of God is used.  In another place, Jesus said, “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11)  Here the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is used. 

 

In the gospel according to St. Luke, “And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 14:29)

 

At any rate, the kingdom of God means the same as the kingdom of heaven.  What, then, is the gospel of the kingdom?  Or, to be more concise, what, then, is the gospel?  What is the good news about the kingdom? 

 

During the time of Jesus, the East could mean the three wise men of the east. He must have learned the story from his mother during his birth. The three wise men most likely would have come along the Silk Road. During the time of Jesus, the people from the west could mean the Romans, the Italians and possibly the Spanish. And from the north, people could have come from Syria and Greece. And from the south, people came from Egypt, Samaria or Ethiopia.

 

The people from the four different directions are obviously from different races. As recently, as in November 2008 during the American presidential election Obama appealed to the people from different races to vote for him. He mentioned different races are black, white, Latinos and Asians. So east, west, north and south can represent people are different races.

 

Again, in as recently as August 2008, about 100 heads of states came to China to participate in the Opening of the Olympic Games and about 200 counties participated in the competitions. Naturally, they are from different directions of the world, they constituted the ideal and reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. Also represented different religions, different ideologies and customs of the whole world.

 

During the time of Jesus, different races, different religions may be in conflict with each other. How could they have come from the east, west, north and south together, to sit down at a banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven? Even for our days, some people think only they alone are worthy to be in the Kingdom of Heaven. Some Christians may think so, but they are Christians of different traditions too. The Orthodox, the Catholics, the Reformers, the Puritans and many others.

 

Each alone would like to think that only they are worthy to be in the Kingdom of Heaven, but there are many other religions in the world. How about Jews, Hindus, the Buddhists, the Christians and the Muslims?

 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I am a Hindu, I am a Christian, I am a Jew, I am a Muslim, I am a Buddhist. In the kingdom of god, there will be no Hindus, no Christians, no Jews, no Muslims, and no Buddhists. In the kingdom of God, there will be all children of God.” In the Chinese classics, from the Canon of Poetry, there is a famous quotation, which says, “We are all begotten of god.” In other words, we are all God’s children. From the Analects of Confucius, it is said “within the four seas, all are brothers and sisters.” The four seas is the same as saying from the east, west, north and south. All are brothers and sisters means that we all have the same ancestor. Dong Zhongshu (2 B.C.)said that, “heaven is our first ancestor.”

 

Therefore, when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, saying “Our father in heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done. On earth as in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…”

 

So what is the Kingdom of Heaven? The Kingdom of Heaven is a family, because there is a heavenly father. And his kingdom will come, when the will of god is done. 

      

Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which his in heaven.(Matthew 8:19-21)

      

       The Kingdom of Heaven is a family, and family has a head, then the head of Kingdom of Heaven is the father. The kingdom of heaven is not a dictatorship nor is it a democracy. The Kingdom of Heaven is a family. The head of family is the heavenly father. Family also has rules and regulations. The rules and regulations are since they came from the east, west, north and south, they all have their own traditions, cultures, and religions. They should be faithful to their own. At the same time, they should learn to respect the difference of others. Therefore, the rules and regulations in the family should be a unity in diversity. Again, according to the analects, “A true human is harmonious among multiculturalism.” In other words, the Kingdom of Heaven is a global family.

 

       To be truthful to oneself and to be respectful of others is to practise the will of god. And the Kingdom of Heaven is where people are good to each other. And this is “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. On earth as in heaven.” So we do not have to die to go to heaven in order to see the kingdom of heaven. The Kingdom of heaven is already on earth as in heaven. When the will of the father is done, the kingdom will come. On earth as in heaven.

 

Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which his in heaven.”(Matthew 8:19-21)

 

 

 

 

Dialogue of Civilization

 

       In the kingdom of heaven, they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down together. Some civilizations look down upon others. Therefore, it is not possible for them to sit down together. In fact, some civilizations refused to sit down with some other civilizations. The fact that east, west, north and south sit down together is an indication that they all respect one another. This is inclusiveness. Some people think that only they alone deserve to be in the kingdom of heaven, and all others are to go to hell. Such way of thinking is exclusiveness. The Kingdom of Heaven is inclusive not exclusive. The great Chinese philosopher, Motse (468-376 B.C.), wrote in his books with three chapters devoted to a topic entitled “Love Is Inclusive”. In his books, Motse emphasis that love is unconditionally inclusive, and exclusiveness leads to hate. Therefore Motse boldly stated “Exclusiveness is wrong and inclusiveness is right.”

 

It is not easy to love our neighbours as ourselves. When east, west, north and south come together it is difficult to expect them to immediately to love one another. Therefore, they must first “sit down” together. What do they do, when they sit down together? They will have dialogue of civilization. When we do dialogues of other people’s civilization, we will discover that we all have the same human nature in spite of our differences. We will discover that we are all children of God, as such we are all brothers and sisters, and we all belong to the same family.

 

 

       Since we all believe for God so loved the world and the day shall come in the Kingdom of God. They will come from the east, west, north and south of different religions. Even Jesus said himself who will be in the Kingdom of Heaven?

 

Jesus said in the Kingdom of Heaven, there will be children. The Kingdom of Heaven is like an invitation to a banquet, people are unwilling to come, so the lord of the banquet must go out to compel some come to attend. Some are even sinners, at another time Jesus said the sinners, like the tax collectors and prostitutes, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven first before the doctors of theology and high priests.

 

In spring 2008 I was asked to speak and suddenly a baby was crying and her mother tried to silence her. I said to her don’t stop her for crying, for in the kingdom of Heaven there will be babies and people agreed. I said in the Kingdom of Heaven, there are people with different religions and people agreed. But when I asked in the Kingdom of Heaven, there would be socialists, people keep quiet. And I asked further, how about good communists? They become very frightened. Just who will be in the Kingdom of Heaven?

 

Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which his in heaven(Matthew 8:19-21)

 

 

 

 

The kingdom in the church

 

 

In the early church of the first century, there was diversity of people from the east, west, north, and south. First there were the Jews who have witnessed the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ. Believing the accounts of such witness were some Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Samaritans, Egyptians, and slaves. All these were collectively called Gentiles by the Jews. So in the first century church, there were Jews and Gentiles. The Jews insisted that Jesus was their savior. He came to save the Jews first, and if the Gentiles wanted to join them, they can do so, if and only if the Gentiles would adopt Jewish culture in three main things: circumcision, observing the Sabbath, and keeping the dietary law. In short, in the early church, the Jews were like the first class citizens.

 

A man called St. Paul came along. He thought that the Jews were exclusive and had treated the Gentiles unfairly. In order to defend the Gentiles, St. Paul quoted the verse from Prophet Habakkuk, “But the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk, 2:4) But St. Paul over emphasised the wording “his faith”, and neglected the wording “shall live”. So there is a loss of balance, which is still obvious to this day. Even during the period of the early church, there already appeared a division between those who emphasised “faith” and neglected “living the faith”. The result is a doctrine of salvation by faith alone and anther doctrine of salvation by good works.

 

The division between the doctrine of salvation by faith alone and by good works became even more serious during the period of reformation in Europe. The reformer Martin Luther emphasised and insisted that salvation is by faith alone, and he put all his theological weight on the concept of the word “alone”. This in the history of the Christian Church is known as the doctrine of “justification by faith alone”, and another reformer by the name of John Calvin even reiterated the doctrine of salvation to become “justification by faith and predestination.”

 

In the Christian Church today, there are those who insist that only those Christians who have faith in Jesus shall go to heaven after their death. And those who could go to heaven is because they have been chosen by God. Predestination means they have been chosen for salvation long time ago. And those who were not chosen by God will go to hell. The church today has become exclusive and has lost the vision and reality according to the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven as preached by Jesus when he was on earth.

 

 Biblical scholars and historians have regarded the period of reformation in the west as responsible for the spirit of subsequent capitalism. The Reformation gave rights to their spirit of individual freedom in the west. The doctrine of justification by faith with predestination enhanced such individual freedom as the forerunner for another period known as Enlightenment in England. Enlightenment does not favour seeking truth by blind faith, but by reason and analysis. This automatically leads mankind into the next period, which is the Scientific Revolution. And as a matter of course, science seeks discoveries, progress and success. And of course this leads to the Industrial Revolution of our recent history. With the advent of Industrial Revolution, capitalism became a natural consequence, the rest is history. Such development of history in the west is regarded by Karl Marx as the historical necessity. Marx predicted that capitalism would one day collapse, and history will move from capitalism to socialism, and ultimately communism. The search for progress and success often neglects stability and sustainability.

 

The kingdom of heaven is a family of inclusiveness where in the family, we are all faithful to our own traditions and religions. But since we are in the same family, we are all respectful to all the differences such as different races, customs, and religions. On the other hand, the doctrine of justification by faith leads to self-justification, self-righteousness, condemnation of others. Such a doctrine has produced a foundation for individualism regarding oneself is right and others are wrong. Individualism prefers complete freedom and deregulation. And without discipline and regulation, it will eventually result in self-destruction of the economic system.

 

For many people in our days, the Great Economy Depression in 1929 in Wall Street has been regarded as the collapse of capitalism. To rescue the system, President Roosevelt in 1933 introduced the system known as the New Deal which has achieved partial recovery of the economy. But the complete recovery for the economic system in the United States came only with the World War II. The capitalist has discovered a secret: without war, capitalism cannot survive. In order to let capitalism survive, it must in every period of history find a new enemy to have war. Without wars, the armament industries would collapse. And with that, the whole system would go under as well. So the armament industries sustained by wars become the economic engine of the capitalist system. To define who is enemy and who is friend, a theology of exclusiveness comes in very handy. The doctrine of justification by faith is the cornerstone of capitalism by origin.

 

In order to help the armament industries, to create new enemies and new wars, the doctrine of justification by faith and predestination has to be used to support the war efforts. In simple terms, they have to make the common people believe that God is always on their side, and enemies are always predestined to be defeated. And that they are chosen by God to fight the enemies to sacrifice their lives to defend freedom and democracy. But the wars in recent generations proved to be otherwise. There was no clear cut victory in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. And the investors begin to doubt that to invest in the armament industries may not continue to bring them profits. So investment funds have left the country to invest where labour costs are lower and more competitive, at home to invest in the housing market and sub-prime risky mortgages, and also, to gamble in the derivatives. As a result to collapse all those, we have the unemployment, low consumption, credit crunch, and deficits. In other words, we cannot afford to have global war, because all the great powers have nuclear weapons, and result will total destruction of human race and the whole world. What can we do now? We must find a solution not just to revive capitalism, but to ensure the continuity of the whole world.

 

 

 

 

From swords to plowshares

 


They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2: 4)

 

The sword is a weapon for war, and the plowshare is an implement for agriculture. The swords and spears together indicate the industries for making weapons. In modern days, we call it the armament industries. The plowshares and pruninghooks are implements for agriculture production. It is the farming way of life. Together, the prophet Isaish in the 8th Century B.C. called for transformation from war economy to peaceful agriculture production. In our days, the message is still the same: the human race should change its way of life from economy of armament industries to peaceful family farming. In so doing, “nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.”

 

“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.” One nation shall not fight against another nation, because wars alone cannot revive the collapse of an economic system. The First and Second World Wars may have revived the capitalist system for awhile but not forever. Even if they could, war alone is immoral. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraqi War have failed to revive the capitalist system with all the accumulated deficits. They, in the end, caused the collapse of the system. So the prophet a long time ago had called for a change in the direction of history, a courageous transformation of war industries to peaceful agriculture production. In other words, history should return from capitalism to and industrial revolution back to sustainable family agriculture.

Many people may call this anti-progress or going backward. Yes, if continuous progress, uncontrolled development and complete financial deregulation will lead the whole world into self-destruction, then to continue to go forward at full speed is sheer stupidity and a crime against the future generation.

 

       The main reason why China is today the oldest and continuous civilization is because China has founded her civilization upon the foundation of agriculture. Other civilizations founded on war and trade have disappeared. One secret about agriculture is that farming has helped to preserve the family unit as well as achieve sustainability with nature. After the Industrial Revolutions, there has been a movement of people from the farming communities to cities, known as the process of urbanization. Family farming has gradually disappeared, and family disintegration has rapidly appeared in the cities. And urbanization for the last 200 years has produced environmental pollution and global warming. The world is also a family. Therefore, ecological crisis is a family crisis for all of us. Since the armament industry is the economic engine of capitalism, reliance on war will eventually lead to tragedies and self-destruction. Therefore, a transformation from swords and spears economy into plowshares and pruninghooks economy is a necessity. Nation should not go to war against other nations, and should practise an inclusiveness and mutual respect for other cultures and civilizations. Exclusive theology with self-righteousness and the doctrine of justification by faith alone must give way to the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

       According to the classics of “Master Lv’s Annals of Spring and Autumn” during the 3rd Century B.C., in one of the chapters entitled “Superior Agriculture”, it is stated that, “Farmers are thrifty by nature. They are law-abiding and contribute to social stability. If they forsook farming and changed to commerce, they became cunning and defiant. Therefore, if people forsook agriculture to follow commerce, they began to become ambitious. And with ambition, they became dishonest. And in dishonesty, they turn right into wrong and wrong into right.” Without a sense of right and wrong, they use their own self-interest as the moral standard. The best example is by using an example in our most recent history. This example is extreme case of self-justification. This is the doctrine of unilateralism. This is the doctrine to allow one nation to practice the first strike to annihilate others in the name of defence for freedom and democracy. Such a doctrine of unilateralism can only lead to self-destruction by uncontrolled deficits and indication of the collapse of capitalism. Therefore, the watch word is repented and returned.

 

 

 

 

Parable of the Prodigal Son

 

From the Gospel according to St. Luke Chapter 15, there is a parable of the prodigal son. The younger son of the family took his portion of inheritance, left home and went to the cities. It is not unusual for a young person to leave the home of family farming with daily routine of duties to go far away seek individual freedom. To transfer the picture to our modern day situation, it is like the financial institutions to seek complete freedom with total deregulation. Without discipline and responsibility, the young man who abandoned family farming pretty soon got into trouble for making friends with the wrong people. He squandered his fortune through wild living and gambling. Economically, he indulged in over consumption beyond his capable credit limit. Maybe he gambled by investing in the derivatives of the stock market. At any rate, he was reduced to bankruptcy, and became a beggar. When human race had over consumed the precious resources of nature, it also brought out climate change. In our world of today, we are suffering a slow death of global warming.

 

In the middle of this crisis, this young man woke up, much like during the global economic crisis. We also began to ask ourselves questions. But when the young man woke up, he repented and made a decision to return. The prodigal son had decided to abandon the individualism of exclusiveness, and return to the family of inclusiveness. Repentance alone is not enough without being accompanied with action and the action is a resolve to go back to his father’s home. Just to be aware of our crisis today is not enough without making a resolve to implement a change in the direction of our future history. The prodigal son that abandoned a home of family farming and went to seek a quick fortune in the cities is like today’s urbanization of farm lands into high-rise buildings and dirty industries of the cities. The return of the prodigal son from the cities to the country side is like the transformation of Industrial Revolution back to the time of family farming. Industrial Revolution is a process where urbanization takes place and family disintegration begins. Family farming will restore social stability and environmental sustainability.

 

So the prodigal sun said, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” (Luke 16:18)

 

“Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” Here the prodigal sun confessed he has sinned against the father and heaven. First, against the father. The father is the father of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is a family where they shall come from the east, west, north and south. And the father is the father of the family. The family is inclusive of all directions, races, cultures, and religions. In this family, each is faithful of its own, yet it is respectful of others. It is a family of inclusiveness. Secondly, “I have sins against heaven.” Heaven is the created nature. The prodigal sun has committed the sins of wasteful consumption. He had destroyed the ecological sustainability, and had sins against the family nature. So together, the prodigal son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.”

 

 

 

 

The Kingdom of Heaven

 

In the Kingdom of Heaven they all come from the east, west, north and south. They shall all sit down together. In the Kingdom of Heaven, it shall be faithful to itself, and it will be respectful of others. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)

 

In November 2006 I visited Mojave Desert. On my way back to Canada, I visited Chinatown in Los Angeles. I entered a small self-help restaurant, there were only four tables. I ordered my food and sat down. I noticed that in front of me was seated a Mexican and behind me was a black man. And to my right and to my left were Chinese from different parts of China.  I remembered Jesus said that “they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:28,29). But I realized that something is missing, we need a white man to complete the Gospel of the Kingdom. And just as I was wondering suddenly a white man showed up. And he ordered food and the restaurant server told him that it was three dollar and fifty cents. He took out from his pocket all the changes and counted twice and there was still not enough. So I rushed forward to the cashier and said to the white man that “Sir, I am buying you this meal.” So I paid for the meal including some dessert for which he is very happy. And so he came and sat down. As soon as he sat down, I looked around again, sure enough this time the Kingdom of God is fulfilled. We now have people who are of different races, from the east, from the west, from the north and from the south and they are all sitting down at table together. So I said to myself one can find reality and a foretaste of the Kingdom even in Chinatown of Los Angeles.

 

“Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28) even in Chinatown, Los Angeles.

 

…be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted… (Isaiah 7: 4)

 

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

 

This is the prince of peace.

 

 

…the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. (Isaiah 35:1)

 

It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: …they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God. (Isaiah 35:2)

 

For in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:6)

 

The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water. (Isaiah 35:7)

 

I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 44:19)

 

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

 

To dream the impossible dream,

To fight the unbeatable foe,

To bear with unbearable sorrow,

To run where the brave dare not go.

 

To right the unrightable wrong,

To love, pure and chaste, from afar,

To try, when your arms are too weary,

To reach the unreachable star!

 

This is my Quest, to follow that star,

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,

To fight for the right without question or pause,

To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause!

To reach the unreachable star!” (Man of La Mancha)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First draft

Dec 12. 2008

Victoria BC Canada

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